Living in Threes by Judith Tarr - Sample Chapter - Book View Cafe

Living in Threes by Judith Tarr - Sample Chapter - Book View Cafe

Living in Threes

Judith Tarr

Book View Café

November 20, 2012

Copyright © 2012 Judith Tarr

ISBN: 978 1 61138 208 2


For the real Meredith

who has waited very long and patiently

for her book to come out in the world


This book could not have existed without the help of

many friends and colleagues.

My agents, Russell Galen and Ann Behar, believed in it

enough to let it go—and to encourage me to publish it

through Book View Café.

But before that could happen, this happened: a

successful Kickstarter, a round 256 backers, and the

wherewithal to transform a manuscript into a book.

Thanks to the backers who have made it possible for

Living in Threes to make its way out into the world:

Cora Anderson, Richard Kirka, Marty Grabien,

Gwyndyn Alexander, Kari Sperring, Kathleen G. Seal,

Alan Hamilton, Robin Taylor, Marci Ellingwood, Carole

Nowicke, Ingrid Emilsson, Lisa Clark, Kit Kerr,

Meredith Tarr, Woj, Katja Kasri, Hugh Agnew,

Marianne Reddin Aldrich, Val Kondrich, Nancy

Kaminski, Kathleen Hanrahan, Robin Marwick, RJ

Nicolo, Molly Kalafut, Elizabeth Bennefeld, Michael

Gaudet, K. Case, Linda Antonsson, Frauke Moebius,

Jenny Graver, Noriko Shoji, Deborah Sumner, C.

Joshua Villines, Mary Ellen Garland, Lauri M. Weaver,

Christy Marx, Shauna Roberts, Catie Murphy,

Ruth Stuart, Adrianne Middleton, Paula

Mikkelsen, Paul “Princejvstin” Weimer, Pat

Knuth, Mary Kay Kare, Peter Aronson, Rebecca

Stefoff, Joseph Hoopman, Di, Valerie Nozick, M.

Menzies, Nancy Pimentel, Dawn Marie Pares,

Leah, Beth, SAMK, Anne Walker, April

Steenburgh, Margaret C. Thomson, Ashley with

the Morgans, M.L.K. Ondercin, Jaakko

Kangasharju, Mary Spila, Poppy Arakelian, Sarah

Patrick, Helen Wright, Paula Meengs, HY Tesler,

Patricia Burroughs, Nancy Barber, Maryanne

Stroud, Amanda Weinstein, K. Kisner, Pat Hayes,

Kate Elliott, Phil Freund, Ceffyl, Solveig, Regina A.

Tarr (hi, Mom!), Marti Wulfow Garner, Kerry

Stubbs, Amy Sheldon, Mary Caelsto, Pat Cadigan,

Christine Swendseid, Heidi Berthiaume, Sue

Wolven, Donna P., Melinda Goodin from

Australia, Kate Kirby, Cameron Harris, Ron

Chance, Alison Farrin.

You are amazing. Thank you all.

Chapter 1

That was the absolute best and the absolute

worst summer of my life, the summer I turned


Sixteen is a weird year. Make it sixteen with

your dad off finding himself again—not that he’d

been around much even before the divorce—and

your mom in remission from ovarian cancer, and

you can pretty much figure you’re being dumped

on from somewhere.

What I didn’t figure, and couldn’t ever have

figured, was how bad it was going to get—and

how completely impossible both the bad and the

good part would be.

Magic. It’s dead, they say. Or never existed.

They aren’t looking in the places I fell into, or

finding it where I found it, that wonderful and

terrible summer.

I had plans with the usual suspects: Cat and Rick

and Kristen. They had their licenses already, got

them before school let out. I was thisclose to


2 Living in Threes

mine, with the September birthday and being the

class baby.

It was going to be our summer on wheels, when

it wasn’t on horseback or out on the beaches. We

had it all mapped out.

Then Mom dropped the bomb.

I came home from the barn early that day, the

day after the last day of school. Rick had the car,

but his dad wanted it back by noon. So we’d hit

the trails at sunup, then done our stalls and hay

and water in a hurry with him already revving up

the SUV.

When I got home, wringing wet and filthy and

so smelly even I could tell I’d been around a

manure pile, Mom was sitting out by the pool.

That wasn’t where she usually was on a

Thursday morning. She still had her work clothes

on, but she’d tossed off the stodgy black pumps

and splashed her feet in the water.

Her hair had all grown back since the chemo. It

was short and curly, and still a little strange, but

I liked it. I thought it made her look younger and


She turned and smiled at me. She looked tired,

part of me said, but the rest of me told that part

to shut up. “Good ride?” she asked.

“Good one,” I answered. “Bonnie only threw in

a couple of Airs. And that was because Rick was

riding Stupid, and she was living up to her name.

Bonnie had to put her in her place.”

Judith Tarr 3

Mom laughed.

As long as I was out there, I figured I’d do the

sensible thing. I dropped my shirt and riding

tights and got down to the bathing suit any sane

person wears under clothes in Florida summer,

and dived into the pool.

The water felt absolutely wonderful. Mom

watched me do a couple of laps.

Finally I gave in. I swam up beside her and

folded my arms on the tiles and floated there, and

said, “All right. Tell me.”

She was still smiling. It must be something

really good, to bring her out of court and all the

way home.

“I’ve been talking to Aunt Jessie,” she said.

“She’s staying in Egypt this summer, instead of

coming back home to Massachusetts.”

I knew that. I talked to Aunt Jessie, too. She

Skyped in at least once a week. Checking on me,

and on Mom through me.

But Mom was in story mode. I kept quiet and

let her go on.

“She’s really excited,” Mom said. “She’s made

some discoveries that she thinks are very

important, and with everything that’s been going

on over there, she hasn’t been at all sure she can

keep getting the permits. She actually got a grant,

which is just about unheard of these days.”

“She must be over the moon,” I said.

“Oh, she is.” Mom paused. “It’s a big grant. Big

4 Living in Threes

enough for a whole team.”

“Including you?”

That came out of the way Mom was smiling—

excited, as if she had a secret and she couldn’t

wait to share. She’d been dreaming about Egypt

for years, following all of Aunt Jessie’s adventures

and reading and studying and talking about

maybe someday, if she had time, if she could get

away, if—

There were always reasons not to go. First she

had to make partner in the law firm. Then she got

asked to be a judge in the county court, and that

needed her to be always on. Always perfect. And

then there was the cancer.

So maybe she figured it was now or never. I

could see that. Even get behind it. But I wasn’t

sure how I felt about it.

Mom away for the whole summer? Was she

really ready to leave me for that long? I didn’t

have my license yet. How was I going to—

All that zipped through my head between the

time I asked my question and the time Mom

answered, “Including you.”

That stopped me cold.

Mom grinned at my expression. “You really

thought it was me? I wish, but there are a couple

of big cases coming on trial, and I might be called

to the bench for another one, and—”

“You said you were going to take it easy this

summer,” I said. “We both were. What would I do

Judith Tarr 5

in Egypt?”

“Learn,” said Mom. “Explore. Be part of

something big.”

“Florida is big enough for me,” I said. “What

about Bonnie? And the trip to Disney World? And

turtle watch? Turtle watch is important. The

college needs us to count those eggs. That’s big,

too. It’s real. It’s now. Not fifty million years ago.”

“Four thousand, give or take,” said Mom, “and

Disney World will keep. So will the turtles.”

“Bonnie won’t. Bonnie needs me. She just got

bred. We don’t even know if she’s pregnant yet.”

“We will tomorrow,” Mom said. “You’ve got a

week till you leave. It’s all taken care of. Visas,

everything. Aunt Jessie’s been working on it for

months. It’s her birthday present to you.”

She’d never said a word to me. Not even a hint.

“I hate surprises,” I said. “I hate her.”

“Hate me,” Mom said. “It was my idea.”

“It’s your dream. Mine is to spend the summer

with my friends and my horse. Not baking in a

desert on the other side of the world. There are

terrorists over there. Revolutionaries. Things get

blown up. People get blown up.”

“You will not get blown up,” Mom said.

I pulled myself out of the water. “I’m not going,”

I said.

Mom didn’t say anything. I grabbed a towel off

the pile on the picnic table and rubbed myself

dry, hard enough to make my skin sting, and

6 Living in Threes

marched off into the house.

For once in the history of the universe, none of

the usual suspects was answering their phone. I

barricaded myself in my room and went laptop

surfing instead.

I surfed for horse stuff and beach stuff and

turtle stuff. Nothing whatsoever to do with Egypt.

Who cared about sand and terrorists and old

dead mummies? The only sand I wanted was

right underneath me in Florida.

When my phone whinnied at me, I almost

didn’t bother to answer it. After all, nobody could

be bothered to answer me.

But the whinny was Cat, and she had an

excuse. She’d been driving her kid brothers home

from soccer.

Crisis? she texted.

Big time. But with the phone in my hand and

the screen staring at me, I couldn’t manage to fit

it all into 160 characters. Tell u tonight, I said.

Still on for ice-cream run?

8:30, she answered. Rick too. Kelly’s got a date.

Normal me would have squeed and wanted to

know all about it. Crisis me punched OK. See u

then, and threw the phone on the bed.

Judith Tarr 7

Mom was still home. I could hear her rattling

around in the kitchen. Then the TV came on,

rumbling away in the background.

That was weird. I almost went to find out why

she wasn’t going back to work, but my mad was

still too new. If she thought she was going to wait

me out, she could just keep thinking it.

The computer beeped at me. The phone was

lighting up with messages. Now everybody wanted

to talk-text-email. All I felt like doing was crawling

inside a book and pulling the cover over my head.

I tried every book in my to-be-read file, and

even in my favorite-dead-tree-rereads pile, but my

eyes kept slipping away from the words. Finally I

opened my laptop instead, but I shut off the wi-fi.

It felt weird. Kind of guilty. Like telling the

whole world to eff off.

What I needed was my own words, or words

that came to me. Words that weren’t about here

or now. I needed to go away, really far away, deep

inside myself where everything was different.

Where I wasn’t even me.

I’ve always told myself stories. I started writing

them down as soon as I knew how. When I got my

first computer that was all my own, I’d found the

place where I could always go.

I wasn’t always safe there. Stories aren’t about

being safe. On the screen, where the words were,

I was home—more than I was anywhere except in

the barn or in my own house.

8 Living in Threes

A year ago, when the cancer came in, it was

scary, but then there was the remission and I told

myself that was it, we’d go on and nothing would

change. Mom wouldn’t get sick again.

But the world was different. I couldn’t trust it

any more.

The only world I could trust was the one I made

for myself. The only light was on the screen, pale

like moonlight, black like the sky between the

stars. Outside it was a steaming hot Florida

afternoon, with the sun beating down and the

thunderheads piling up. In here, it was as cold as

the truth I’d had to face, the day Mom came home

from the doctor and sat me down and told me she

was going to die.

Today wasn’t anything like that. She was just

dumping me for the summer—same as Dad used

to do, till he stopped even bothering to show up.

Just like Dad, she thought it was great. Romance!

Adventure! All the things she’d never had time to

do, so I got to do them instead.

I closed my eyes and made myself go away.

Skip over. Ignore. Forget. Be somewhere else. Be

someone else—someone as different as it was

possible to be.

This wasn’t really a new story. Pieces of it had

been in me for as long as I could remember,

fragments of words, images, half-remembered

dreams, but now it was all there: solid, whole,

and so real I could taste it.

Judith Tarr 9

Really, I could. It was bitter and salty, like a

mouthful of ocean, or too many tears. When I

opened my eyes, I was somewhere completely


I was inside the story. Instead of me telling it, it

was telling me.

What happens next?

Buy Living in Threes at Book View Cafe

Copyright & Credits

Living in Threes

Sample Chapter

Judith Tarr

Book View Café Edition November 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61138-208-2

Copyright © 2012 Judith Tarr

Cover illustration & interior illustration by Emily Trower

Cover design by Dave Smeds

BVC Production team:

Sherwood Smith, Julianne Lee, Vonda N. McIntyre




About the Author

Judith Tarr holds a PhD in Medieval Studies

from Yale. She is the author of over three dozen

novels and many works of short fiction. She has

been nominated for the World Fantasy Award,

and has won the Crawford Award for The Isle of

Glass and its sequels. She lives near Tucson,

Arizona, where she raises and trains Lipizzan


Other Books by Judith Tarr


Ars Magica


The Dagger and the Cross

A Wind in Cairo

Lord of the Two Lands

The Hound and the Falcon

The Isle of Glass

The Golden Horn

The Hounds of God


Writing Horses: The Fine Art of Getting it Right

BVC Anthologies

Beyond Grimm

Breaking Waves

Brewing Fine Fiction

Ways to Trash Your Writing Career

Dragon Lords and Warrior Women

Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls

The Shadow Conspiracy

The Shadow Conspiracy

The Shadow Conspiracy II

About Book View Café

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With authors in a variety of genres including

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Book View Café has something for everyone.

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Hugo Award winners, Philip K. Dick and Rita

award winners, and New York Times bestsellers

and notable book authors.

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